Latest News

4 March 2019

International Women’s Day 8 March 2019

ASHA and Barnardo’s National FGM Centre joined forces on 4 March to mark International Women’s Day, albeit a few days early, for a conference at the Great Western Moat House Hotel to deconstruct FGM or cutting, Glenda Bonde, national FGM community development officer, reminded attendees of all the various harmful practices and abuse to which women remain subject in many cultures. Local workers Rebecca Roy and Jade Benjamin outlined the legislation which make many practices make illegal.

The morning really took off when Rose Ssali from Nigeria spoke about the cultural practices and traditions which make it so difficult for a woman to stand alone and say ‘no’ to practices which culture or tradition may compel her to submit to or face ostracism or worse. Rose established SAWN (Support and Action for Women Network) in Manchester in 2007 to promote the welfare of African women living in Greater Manchester. A survivor’s story brought home the message of how the practice of FGM is handed down to blight the life of the next generation and the strength it takes to break the chain.

Gina Newman, Health Improvement Practitioner who is becoming a familiar advocate of ASHA took the opportunity to remind women of the importance of breast cancer screening.

ASHA knows that many women who attend the Women’s Group are more than likely to have experienced cutting and sexual violence. Their burden is often invisible but it is there casting a shadow over their life.

In her closing remarks Angela Glendenning, an ASHA trustee and volunteer with ASHA, applauded the event and urged women to join forces to support one another because alone we may feel powerless but together we can move mountains.

Thirty-five women and two men attended and of these 17 were from ASHA. An excellent lunch rounded off the morning. Most left with a spring in their step and a feeling of solidarity with women whom they may not have known before but with whom they now shared a common agenda. 

25 February 2019

Trent and Mersey Canal and River Trust Angela, Misbah, Matt and five users walked through Hanley Park to the canal and Trust’s office in an old warehouse in Etruria. They were met by John Keveaney who showed them how the locks worked and described the kind of work undertaken by volunteers. Philip Swan is available on Saturday 8 April and nearer the time arrangements will be made for a work party to start work.

23 February 2019

Breast Cancer Screening Gina Newman, Health Improvement Practitioner for the North Midlands Breast Screening Service attended the Women‘s Group. Take up is very low in Stoke and no less so amongst asylum seekers. Gina will be doing a ‘before’ and ‘after assessment’ after this, her third session.

23 February 2019

Global Health Challenges at Keele University Angela, Zalmai Muhsher and Hassan Al-Shayter represented ASHA at this conference organised by medical students in association with Medicins sans Frontiere. The first keynote speaker was Daniel Flecknoe who spoke at an ASHA event last year; the second was Dr John Buckles CBE, a retired surgeon who had just returned from a stint at a displaced person’s camp in South Sudan where Zulmai has worked. It was an excellent event in every respect.

20 February 2019

Holocaust Memorial Godefroid attended an event in London which seeks to encourage refugee organisations to commemorate Genocide memorial events in the countries from which a significant number of asylum seekers originate. The Rwanda Genocide against Tutsi Memorial Day is on Sunday 7 April and that of the Halabja Gas Attack on 16 March.

19 February 2019

Safeguarding Sixteen local and asylum volunteers attended an interactive presentation by Godefroid on Safeguarding. This leaves only six current volunteers who have not done the training although several have received this training in other settings.

February 2019

Medical Students on Placement Six second year medical students have resumed their placements at ASHA. Besides meeting with John they help with various tasks including omelette making on Thursdays and talking with users to understand better the asylum ‘experience.’

8 February 2019

Ferida Dube, British Red Cross Coordinator, is transferring on promotion to Birmingham. Ferida is pleased to be promoted but deeply sorrowful to leave ASHA as we are to see her go. The occasion was marked by a card, chocolate cake and speeches from John, Angela and Ferida. Lydia will now be the BRC Coordinator.

17 January 2019

Refugee Action formally started work alongside the British Red Cross on Thursdays offering a drop-in service which complements that of the Red Cross.

17 January 2019

Period Power Linda Allbut’s initiative in establishing Period Power and distributing sanitary products to vulnerable groups has resulted in the City Council making available free products at 180 publically owned buildings ranging from libraries, neighbourhood offices, Unison, Spoke Works etc.

Linda has been providing these products to ASHA and we hope she will go on doing so while ASHA on its part will do its best to encourage our female users to seek what they need from local distribution centres.

Christmas Party 22 December 2018

A 7 year old boy commented to John that he had never been to a party before and it was ‘the best!’

Over 100 children attended and some 150 parents, asylum seekers, volunteers and others. The venue was certainly the best yet. Staffordshire Student’s Union offered a large hall with space for games for different age groups and for the youngsters to run around. The adjoining bar with its comfortable chairs and small tables was a pleasant place for parents to sit and the meal prepared by Manjula, Sasangi and Pauline was, as we’ve come to expect, superb.

The party could not have taken place without our donor’s. The Christmas Appeal raised £3,862.44 and ASHA extends hearty thanks to everyone who contributed.

Sporting Communities organised the party and the Salvation Army gave presents for every child. Volunteers provided a delicious array of home cooked cakes and worked tirelessly to keep coffee and tea coming and tables cleared of debris!

Hearty thanks to everyone. It was a team effort of which everyone involved can be justly proud.

‘Three Cheers and a Hurrah for donors to ASHA’s Christmas Appeal!  You raised £3762.44, a splendid total, and over …….. children and around 150  parents, asylum seekers and volunteers attended the party at Staffordshire University Student’s Union, the best  venue we have ever had.  As always, the food cooked by asylum seekers was exceptional and the cakes and cookies provided by volunteers exceeded expectation.  Sporting Communities organised games to suit every age group and Father Christmas gave a present provided by the Salvation Army to every child. Thank you to everyone who contributed and played their part in an event of which we can be proud.’


BBC Newsnight 17 December 2018

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bvqwbn/newsnight-17122018

Two reporters and a camera man interviewed ASHA’s chair, Kevin Sauntry on the government’s asylum dispersal policy. Lydia was also interviewed on her experience of the accommodation provided by G4S for asylum seekers and Tamba Musa spoke briefly about his experience as an asylum seeker in Stoke.

There was a suggestion that BBC Newsnight might do a follow-up but news is always of the minute so we don’t hold our breath!


LICHFIELD FOOD BANK December 2018

Lichfield Food Bank is a major resource for ASHA. Whenever the Food Bank has surplus their chair, David Clarke, tells ASHA and Angela drives to Lichfield and returns with her little Fiat packed to the gunnels. More recently, David hired a van and saved ASHA from cutting to the minimum what it could offer asylum seekers.

David’s December report on the Food Bank’s run-up to Christmas contains a special mention of ASHA. He writes:

ASHA is a charity in Stoke on Trent that supports asylum seekers and those whose application for political asylum is refused but who are not deported. They have very little to live on (and literally nothing for the latter group). We have supported them with food whenever we have sufficient surplus ourselves. Returning to my theme of what we do being worthwhile, here is part of the latest thank-you letter they sent:

“ASHA is most grateful for the splendid amount of food Lichfield has given us recently. It has made a big difference. THANK YOU.

For the first time we have been able to give every asylum seeker oil and rice and five items of their choice. This is much better than us packing a parcel for what we think they want and can use.

The Christmas Tree (donated by one of our volunteers) is splendid. Two students immediately set it up and when I turned round it had glittery lights. Nobody was sure where they had come from!

The children’s Christmas Party was amazing. Families started arriving at 12.15 and they kept coming! The party proper didn’t begin until 2 o’clock. We had hired a large hall but with 137 children and around 70 parents we were bulging at the seams. We will need to find somewhere bigger next year. Every child had a donated lunch and a present from Santa Claus.

As of 30 November the Lichfield Food Bank had distributed over 252,000 meal equivalents and donations had reached record levels. One outcome is that ASHA will soon be the recipient of another load of surplus stock to replenish our food store for the coming year when donations inevitably slacken.


Christian Aid Exhibition at West End Methodist Church 3 November 2018

The West End Methodist Church hosted a three day Christian Aid exhibition and invited ASHA to display our Women’s Group Craft Work on the final day Those who don’t know the church and its community centre and café won’t know that not many moons ago it was the very dilapidated West End Pub! It is now a superb community hub with a whole variety of activities to engage every age group.

ASHA was delighted to attend and pleased to report that the craft work raised £33.


LIFT THE BAN CAMPAIGN Progress Report from Paul, Refugee Action

[campaign@refugee-action.org.uk] 5 November 2018

 It’s only three weeks since the launch of our #LiftTheBan campaign to give people seeking asylum the right to work. 

 

With your help, we’ve shown millions of people – including senior politicians – that the case for lifting the ban is undeniable.

 

Thanks to our supporters, and the more than 100 organisations backing the campaign, here are some of the things we’ve achieved in such a short space of time:

  • Media coverage including The Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Financial Times and New Statesman
  • A growing coalition of campaign partners as varied as the TUC, Ben & Jerry’s, Crisis, the Church of England and Amnesty International
  • The Labour Party has officially shifted its position to back our campaign
  • Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said she was ‘listening carefully’ to the arguments for lifting the ban, during a parliamentary debate on the campaign
  • Home Secretary Sajid Javid said ‘we are looking to see what more we can do’ in response to an Oral Question in the House of Commons
  • More than 16,000 people have signed our petition to give people seeking asylum the right to work

 

We’re overwhelmed by how strongly the public has come out in support of the rights of people seeking safety in the UK. Research shows that 71% of the public are behind us on this issue, but to see that put into practice is something else entirely.

 

There is still a long way to go, but we’re now more confident than ever that we can transform the lives of people seeking asylum by winning their right to work.

 

We could not do it without your help. 

 

There’s a lot more to come from the #LiftTheBan campaign, so please keep helping us push to turn cross-party backing and public support into real change.


Community Learning Day 9 November 2018

Twenty-seven users and 12 guests attended a Community Learning Day on Radicalisation and Racism in the morning and a Laughter Workshop in the afternoon. In between everyone enjoyed an excellent lunch prepared by Pauline from the Ivory Coast.

Matt Pointon from Unionlearn brought his usual panache and enthusiasm to the far from easy theme of radicalisation and racism. Laughter is good for us. Scientific research shows that joyful laughter raises our mood and helps us to relieve stress. As Robin Graham, our Laughter Guru remarked, we cannot do much to alleviate the circumstances our users endure but we can offer a chance to laugh and some awareness of the kind of exercises which help to relieve stress.

We hope that Matt and Robin will make a return visit in March and Robin has offered to teach others how to structure a laughter activity workshop.


Befriending Sunday 18 November 2018

Charlotte Swan visited Trinity Church Leek to tell the congregation about Befriending. She received a warm response and a cheque for £79.75 from the Churches Together Lights switch on. This will be added to the Christmas Party for Children fund.


Breast Screening 17 November 2018

On Saturday women attending ASHA’s women and children clubs had an opportunity to learn about the importance of breast screening for cancer. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and the take up for breast screening is low in Stoke-on-Trent. It’s important to flag this up and encourage women not to overlook an invitation for breast screening. This applies equally to women seeking asylum as to local women. ASHA is grateful to Health Improvement Practitioners, Gina and Jessica, for their visit and we look forward to seeing them again early in the New Year.

To find out more go on Facebook – North Midlands Breast Screening Service or ring 9300-123-1463 or ask your doctor.


National Citizen Service 17 November 2018

Ten young people on a National Citizen Service programme visited ASHA on Saturday. Explaining why they had chosen to support ASHA this is what they said:

As a group, through NCS, we pulled together and developed the idea of help refugees and asylum seekers within our community. Together we feel passionately about helping to integrate refugees and asylum seekers into our community because it is important to support those who need help and to welcome them. After conducting some research we found ASHA. We saw the amazing work that ASHA is doing and after reading their website we concluded we would fundraise by doing an 8-mile sponsored walk to gather some money to donate to ASHA.’

In the morning members of they played with children attending the Saturday club and others joined asylum seekers playing football. Following a lunch break they returned to ASHA and helped with some routine chores like sorting donations of food and clothing. Then they went shopping to buy food with the proceeds of their sponsored walk. ASHA’s food cupboard is perilously low and their contribution could not have come at a better time. THANK YOU NCS. You’ve really helped us and we hope to see you again.


Befriending Sunday 18 November 2018

Charlotte Swan visited Trinity Church Leek to tell the congregation about Befriending. She received a warm response and a cheque for £79.75 from the Churches Together Lights switch on. This will be added to the Christmas Party for Children fund.


Afternoon Reception for Dr Rowan Williams Tuesday 16 October

African drummers greeted Dr Williams on his visit to ASHA where around 60 local people and ASHA users had gathered to meet him. Following a brief introduction to ASHA’s services, asylum seekers, staff, local and asylum volunteers spoke about ASHA and four asylum speakers narrated 20 word poems on a refugee’s experience of seeking a new life in a new country. Dr Williams spoke movingly of asylum seekers as guests and his talk is available on ________________________.

A delicious meal prepared by asylum seekers rounded off the afternoon while Dr Williams ‘worked the room’ ensuring that everyone felt that they had personally greeted and met him

Commenting on the occasion, Phil Silk, Newcastle Unitarians and an ASHA volunteer wrote:

On Tuesday, October 16, Asha held a reception for Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.  As he entered to the sound of African drumming, he was met by three refugees in their national dress and a room full of people involved in our community.  To help him get a sense of what we do, several speakers shared their stories.  Paid and volunteer staff briefly told of their work and experiences; four refugees shared poems written by refugees; and several refugees told of what Asha meant to them.  Dr Williams replied that he was impressed by the way Asha had created a welcoming community which made people, including him, feel at home.  International refreshments and conversation followed.


Reporting the occasion, Stephen Langford, Clerk to Stoke-on-Trent Local Quaker meeting wrote:

This reception was held on the occasion of a visit by Dr Rowan Williams to Stoke -on-Trent at the ASHA centre supporting asylum seekers in Stoke-on-Trent.

The event was well attended by local charities and supporters of the centre; although the there was a notable absence of representatives from local and national government.

A thorough account of the centres activities and the challenges faced in assisting asylum seekers in Stoke and elsewhere in the UK was given by Angela Glendening.

The event was supported by some drummers and readings, poetry and statements made by some of those the centre is supporting. I was very struck by the diversity of nationalities represented.

In his response Rowan Williams reminded us that the Britain had a long history of giving sanctuary to those fleeing persecution. Rather than seeing refugees as a threat, they should be treated as guests in our country.

A final plea was made to support the campaign to allow asylum seekers to work while, their applications are being heard.


Lift the Ban Campaign 17 October 2018

Find out how you can help the campaign for the right of asylum seekers to work. Log-on https://cityofsanctuary.org/2018/08/30/lift-the-ban-campaign-for-the-right-to-work-survey/
At present people seeking asylum are only allowed to work if they have been waiting on a claim for 12 months or more and can fill a role on the shortage of occupation list, which includes positions such as classical ballet dancers and geophysicists. This means people are essentially banned from working while they wait months, and often years, for a decision on a claim, living on the £5.39 a day the government allows.

The number of people waiting for a decision on an asylum claim had risen from 14,528 by mid-2018, the highest since records began. A significant number of these will live in Stoke-0n-Trent.

ASHA sees at first-hand how demoralizing it is to live a hand to mouth existence, not knowing what your future holds and very often losing skills you hold dear. It compounds the burden of separation, bereavement and loss someone seeking asylum already bears and takes a huge toll on their emotional, psychological and physical well- being.

Please write to the Home Secretary and/or your MP declaring your support for the Lift the Ban Campaign. THANK YOU.

ASHA North Staffordshire, Unit 7 Hanley Business Park, Cooper Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 4DW

Concert in aid of ASHA at Trinity Church Leek

For some time now Trinity Church and the Methodist churches in the Staffordshire Moorlands Circuit have committed to supporting ASHA in various ways as part of their mission plan (awareness raising, volunteering, fundraising, befriending, donating money, food, clothes and bicycles)

On Saturday 20th October Hannah Turner and Young Phoenix singers combined forces to put on a concert of varied vocal and instrumental music in aid of the ongoing work of ASHA, which receives no permanent funding and relies on small grants and donations.

Hannah performed a variety of solo pieces, some new and others well known and Young Phoenix chose a selection of mainly unaccompanied songs from their growing repertoire. Their programme was very much enjoyed and Trinity is grateful for their willingness to come along and help raise money in such a good cause.

The event attracted a good audience from local churches, the Methodist circuit as well as the wider local community. A group of volunteers and asylum seekers from ASHA also attended, which included a trio of drummers form various parts of Africa who welcomed folk as they came into church with a burst of drumming .They also performed three pieces half way through the programme .Their enthusiastic drumming and singing complemented the typical English programme really well and afterwards everyone from ASHA enjoyed meeting with folk from Leek which they don’t get much of an opportunity to meet.

One of the asylum seekers had brought for sale a number of his paintings evoking scenes from his home country, which were sold in aid of ASHA. It is hoped that more of these will be available on Eva Massey’s craft stall at Wednesday Coffee mornings at Trinity.

In the absence of Angela Glendenning a Trustee at ASHA ,who was feeling under the weather that day ,Godefroid Seminega concluded the evening by explaining what ASHA is all about and the huge gratitude felt for the moral and financial support that evenings such as this provided.

A total of £419 was raised.


A trip to the seaside Saturday 1 September 2018 – Maureen Wisken

Two coaches full of expectant families set off of a misty morning for a trip to Llandudno.  The excitement was palpable! On the way the coaches paused at Snugbury’s for everyone to enjoy ice-cream free of change. Thank you Snugbury’s!

The day was largely a result of the result of Diane’s enterprise in deciding, on what felt like the spur of the moment, to find the money!  In the event Diane, Sue and other volunteers and supporters raised the formidable sum £1953.08 from the people of Alsager in a matter of weeks

On arrival the sun shone. It was a brilliant day and these photos alone tell a story of an occasion which will be long remembered by all those who took part.


Half Day Training for local and asylum volunteers 17 August 2018 10.00 – 12.30/1.00pm

It’s OK not to be OK! Daniel Flecknowe

Dan will discuss displacement, identity and the traumatising effect of living with long term fear, the intrusive memories, the triggers to avoid, the lack of emotional regulation, sleep disturbance and things to learn and unlearn.

Coping and gathering resilience from the support of those around them is a key to an asylum seeker’s survival. Volunteers can offer the connectedness which these men, women and children need to affirm their individuality as persons in their own right: ‘I am a name and not a number.’

Daniel is a specialist registrar in public health and a registered nurse with a background in A & E and humanitarian aid work. He has worked as a mobile clinic nurse, medical team leader and health promotion specialist for Medecins Sans Frontieres, most recently in Iraq. He is the founder and chair of the Global Violence Prevention working group and a trustee of the progressive medical human rights charity Medact.


CLOSURE OF STOKE’S REPORTING CENTRE 20 August 2019

Asylum seekers required to report in Salford

There are around 950-1000 asylum seekers in the City and until now a large number have been required to report regularly to a local reporting centre. Without warning the centre has been closed and asylum seekers must travel to Salford to report. For many this will mean a journey of several miles to Stoke Station to get a train to Manchester and another to Salford, often for a reporting time of 10.00 am.

An individual’s weekly allowance is £37.75 and some may not have enough money on their card to buy tickets. Moreover, there is little certainty that the travel cost of approximately £21 will be quickly reimbursed which may well result in many going hungry. 

It matters to an asylum seeker to maintain a perfect reporting record because failure to do so will jeopardise their application for asylum.

Please write to the Home Secretary (Office of Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF) and to your MP to protest this Ill-considered decision and urge that the Stoke-on-Trent Reporting Centre be reinstated without delay.

SAMPLE LETTER TO THE HOME SECRETARY CONCERNING REPORTING CENTRE

Office of Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP

Home Office

2 Marsham Street

London, SW1P 4DF 20 August 2018

Dear Minister

I am a trustee and volunteer of ASHA North Staffordshire, a charity in Stoke-on-Trent which promotes the social integration of asylum seekers and refugees and offers a range of services from befriending to English classes and food and clothing for those who are destitute.

There are around 900+ asylum seekers in the City and until now they have been required to report regularly to a local reporting centre. Without warning the centre has been closed and asylum seekers must travel to Salford to report. For many this will mean a journey of several miles to Stoke Station to get a train to Manchester and another to Salford, often for a reporting time of 10.00 am.

An individual’s weekly allowance is £37.75 and some may not have enough money on their card to buy tickets. Moreover, there is little certainty that the travel cost of approximately £21 will be quickly reimbursed which may well result in some going hungry.

The generality of asylum seekers take reporting very seriously and wish to maintain a good record.

As an individual, a trustee and volunteer with ASHA, I am shocked, dismayed and upset by what appears to be a very ill considered decision especially given the numbers of asylum seekers accommodated in Stoke-on-Trent. I sincerely hope it will be reconsidered at the earliest opportunity and the Stoke Reporting Centre will be reinstated.

Yours faithfully,


ASHA NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE URGES SUPPORTERS TO WRITE TO THE HOME SECRETARY AND TO THEIR MP CONCERNED ASYLUM SEEKERS BEING REQUIRED TO REPORT IN SALFORD August 2018

There are around 950-1000 asylum seekers in the City and until now a large number have been required to report regularly to a local reporting centre. Without warning the centre has been closed and asylum seekers must travel to Salford to report. For many this will mean a journey of several miles to Stoke Station to get a train to Manchester and another to Salford, often for a reporting time of 10.00 am.

An individual’s weekly allowance is £37.75 and some may not have enough money on their card to buy tickets. Moreover, there is little certainty that the travel cost of approximately £21 will be quickly reimbursed which may well result in many going hungry. 

It matters to an asylum seeker to maintain a perfect reporting record because failure to do so will jeopardise their application for asylum.

Please write to the Home Secretary (Office of Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF) and to your MP to protest this Ill-considered decision and urge that the Stoke-on-Trent Reporting Centre be reinstated without delay

EXAMPLES OF EXPERIENCE OF REPORTING TO OTHER ASYLUM REPORT CENTRES

Central Bristol Chris and Gwyn Gwyntopher [chrisandgwyn@phonecoop.coop]

The reporting centre in central Bristol was moved to Patchway out on the northern fringes of the city. It is hard to get there for anyone placed in south Bristol. Not a bad as north Nottingham to Loughborough however. Bristol City of Sanctuary are fund raising to pay bus fares for those not on NAAS support.

Nottingham/Derby/Leicester Sheila Mosley <qarn@lists.riseup.net

They rationalised reporting services in our area a long time ago such that everyone from Nottingham, Derby and Leicester area have to report at Loughborough. They said no-one should travel for more than 15 miles.

Portsmouth Michael Woolley <qarn@lists.riseup.net

The Reporting Centre in Portsmouth was closed some time ago and everyone made to report in Fareham. There are 200 dispersed asylum seekers in Portsmouth, none in Fareham. The Border Agency has an office in Portsmouth but not in Fareham, it’s a nine mile journey which inconveniences everybody and costs over £5 return on the bus. After protest the Border Agency started providing bus passes but not for people making fresh claims or freshly arrived in the city (though they are expected to report). Friends without Borders pay these fares at the cost of £100 to £125 a month. We have protested but to no effect. (ASHA

Birmingham and Coventry report to Solihull

CASE STUDY of Asylum Seeker experience reporting to Salford 2018 on 28 August

It took a full day for SM to report to the Salford Centre. She had been there before and thought she knew the way. Her journey from Stoke-on-Trent to Salford was as follows:

9am leave home for train station

11.30 am arrive at Reporting Centre. Join long waiting queue

2.30 Leave Centre

SM had been given a bus ticket on her previous visit but returning to Manchester Piccadilly Station required two buses. She mistakenly got on the wrong bus and had to rely on advice from strangers who were helpful.

7.00pm Finally arrived back in Stoke-on-Trent

Comment What would have happened if SM had children to pick up from school or nursery?


REFUGEE LUNCH TO CELEBRATE REFUGEE WEEK 19 June 2018

ASHA took advantage of a special Refugee Week lunch to pay tribute to Jude Hawes, one of the city’s leading campaigners for refugees and asylum seekers.

Jude has spent much of the last 18 years supporting the city’s refugee and asylum-seeking communities in her role as specialist advice and equalities manager at Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent. The value of her work is immense. It contributes greatly to community harmony enabling people to contribute to the wellbeing of their neighbourhood and in doing so replacing suspicion with friendship.

Jude’s partner Alastair and members of her team were invited; Jude’s immediate reaction was to ask why Alastair was there when he was supposed to be working from home. The ready answer was that Alastair was a last minute invitee because ASHA is beholden to him for managing ASHA’s Mail Chimp!

Following a delicious lunch cooked by asylum seekers from Syria, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Africa, Angela surprised Jude by asking her to come forward. Following a short appreciation of her work for asylum seekers, John Wood who retired as Assistant Chief Constable in 2007 and is currently the independent chair of the Safeguarding Adults Board, presented Jude with a bowl inscribed ‘Am I Not a Man and Your Brother’ reprising the plaque which Josiah Wedgwood manufactured to support the abolition of the Slave Trade. As a footnote, Jude, John and Angela had worked together in the late 80s and 90s on PARINS (Partnership Approach to Racist Incidents in North Staffordshire – now Challenge North Staffs). This left Godefroid to give Jude a rose bush and to thank her on behalf of all the asylum seekers and refugees who had been assisted and supported by the services she developed.

The occasion was shared with 30 ASHA supporters and 31 asylum seekers.


Library Visit 20 June 2018

On Wednesday 20th June a group of about 15 asylum seekers from Asha, three teachers – Margaret, Diane & Sue – and Polly on Work Experience from her school visited the Stoke-on-Trent City Central Library.

We were very warmly welcomed by all the library staff who showed our group great patience, understanding, friendliness and good humour through the difficulties of communicating in a new language.

Kirsty, the librarian, was wonderful! She was very understanding of our group’s needs and gave a very clear and explanatory talk about all the services the library provides. Each of the asylum seekers introduced themselves and Kirsty was very interested to learn where they all come from and what languages they speak. She said she would ask if Arabic newspapers could be purchased in the future for them. She pointed out where the ‘easy reads’ were located and several of the group found books they were able to borrow from that section. They were all excited by the opportunity to use the library computers and Polly in particular did an excellent job in helping some of them to ‘log on’ using their new library cards. Others have signed up for 1-1 computer mentoring sessions. The Mums and babies enjoyed visiting the children’s section with its comfy chairs and easily accessible book boxes.

Afterwards we visited the café at the Museum next door for a well earned drink! Overall it was a very happy and valuable visit, so a big Thank You to Margaret for organising it and to Kirsty and the team at Central Library for making us so welcome!

Diane Selby, ASHA Volunteer


Uniting Communities through Sport 23 June 2018

ASHA’s inaugural Football Tournament to celebrate Refugee Week at Northwood Stadium was an outstanding success.  It brought together men, women and children seeking asylum with local people to play together in mixed teams under the heading ‘Uniting Communities through Sport. Members of Stoke City FC Community Trust, Staffordshire Clubs for Young People (Leek) and staff from public, private and voluntary services all took part.

The tournament’s success owed much to Ben Rigby, Executive Director of Sporting Communities and a member of ASHA’s Board of Trustees.  Without his mastery of large numbers of people wanting to get on the pitches and play it might have been chaos!   As it was everyone had their turn and although most would have liked more playing time there was general satisfaction in games well played. 

It was equally rewarding to see going on 100 people at the Barbecue afterwards on ASHA’s car park which proved surprisingly big when emptied of cars. Sporting Communities Play Bus with its pull out stage enabled a band organised by Cath Ralph, another trustee of ASHA, to entertain and although the queue for the Sudanese barbecue was long everyone got fed.  Liz from Tesco worked like Trojan filling 600 freshly baked baps with barbecued lamb and chicken.

It was especially rewarding to see ASHA’s asylum volunteers turn up early help with the preparations, carrying tables and chairs onto the car park and being still there at the end to help clear up!  A big thank you to them and to our local volunteers who came to enjoy and turned to help when they saw what was needed.

The event was a fulfilment of an ambition which Godefroid had cherished for a long time. It was an active demonstration of inclusion in action and its memory will be carried by many people for a long time.


REPORT OF DIGNITY NOT DESTITUTION CONFERENCE TO MARK REFUGEE WEEK 23 June 2017

Attendance 53 registered; 5 possibly present but not registered + 5 speakers 2 staff, 2 Trustees. Total 67

VIDEO: How Does the Asylum System Work available on https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/09/its-a-shambles-data-shows-most-asylum-seekers-put-in-poorest-parts-of-britain

WE ARE BROTERS Demetrios Trifiatis (2013)

Don’t look at me as though I am an alien or stranger,

Don’t let the dagger of antipathy fly out of your eyes,

I am your neighbour!

Don’t call me foe, antagonist or rival,

Don’t roll up your mistrustful sleeves to have a fight,

I am your friend!

Don’t hold this murderous weapon in your kind hand,

Don’t deny me the right to work, to eat, to live,

I am your BROTHER!

If destiny willed me to be born on this side of the frontier line,

If my parents wished me these clothes to wear and taught me their own dance

Do we have to be adversaries?

If fate desired me to speak this foreign tongue,

And the colour of my skin to be different than yours,

Do we have to be competitors?

If necessity decided in this country, in the North, or South, or East, or West to live,

Do we have to be opponents?

If I believe in Jesus, Jehovah, Krishna, Buddha, Brahma or Allah,

If this is my philosophy, my tradition, my history and my culture,

Do we have to be enemies?

NO! A million times NO!

Please, look at me with new eyes and throw away your injurious prejudices,

What do you see but a person like you whose wants, desires and hopes are for the same things in life?

Happiness, family, well-being, a home, some friends, some love,

Look! I walk, I talk, I eat, I sleep, I dream, I laugh and I cry, just like you,

I’m born, I grow up, I learn, I suffer, I bleed and I die, just like you,

I’m a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter, just like you,

You see, we are alike, we are the same,

WE ARE BROTHERS!

Listen to me my neighbour, my friend, my ally, I am telling you the truth:

We are victims of schemes well- planned in advance, by deceitful, evil-hearted men who wished, your destruction and mine,

They: masters of savage forgery, dividers of mankind,

Have tricked us throughout history with well-orchestrated lies, and with treacherous stories, these intellectually impotent criminals, have instilled tons of poison in your heart and mine,

Thus, by cultivating hatred, bitterness and rage, managed to shape us to ruthless foes, to merciless enemies, to cruel animals

Please, listen to me! It is true! We are BROTHERS!

Let us, therefore, with irresistible will cross all frontier lines, that the past

has erected between us, thus making divisions vanish.

Let us, with supreme power, break the bonds of history, religion and culture and

run into each other’s arms,

Let us uproot, from our tormented hearts, thorny mistrust that was planted

there thousands of years ago,

Let us seize ammunition from destructive hatred and make war capitulate,

Let us sink the cholera of bitterness in the affectionate sea of universal

brotherhood and finally,

Let us unite and march to higher claims, to incomparable glory, where

peace can blossom today,

Thus, both of us my brother, AT LAST! Will go to sleep, fearless of each other tonight!

END

A Taste of Home Prepared by:

Roza (Ingushetia), Sandrine (DRC), Hoa (China), Narow (Iraq) (Syria), Akbar (Iran), Gulzimar (Afghanistan)

One attendee commented: ‘I thought the lunch was fabulous and served by people with such joy and generosity.’

Memories of the food may will linger long after those of the conference have faded!

Continued

SEE BELOW FOR JACKIE GREGORY’S SUMMARY OF THE CONFERENCE. It is an eloquent resume of the speaker’s presentations and as good an aide memoire as you’ll get.

There are also some comments from other attendees.

Am I not a man and your brother? This quote by potter and anti-slave trade campaigner Josiah Wedgwood epitomised a core theme of a conference to mark Refugee Week.

Dignity not Destitution was organised by ASHA with the aim to increase practical support for asylum seekers and to widen recognition of asylum seekers as people “just like us”. It also brought together organisations so that information could be shared and collaborations established. As Angela Glendenning, one of the organisers, said: “We need more Josiah Wedgwood’s today.”

The conference began with a moving reading of Demetrios Trifiatis’ poem: “We are brothers” performed by ASHA’s volunteers.

Picking up the theme, Rev Sally Smith of Sanctus began with a challenging appeal; could anyone with investment money think about buying a house and loaning it to Sanctus for asylum seekers to use for a few years, before selling it again. She said there was a desperate need because at various points throughout the asylum process, people can find themselves homeless. Rosa, an asylum seeker, gave her story saying she had found herself homeless and that Sanctus had come to the rescue. Rosa said of her homeless experience: “It was horrible, I didn’t have the language, I didn’t know where to go, it was really hard. I felt very weak.” Sanctus currently has seven houses that they can use as emergency accommodation, and which may be needed for a few days, weeks or months.

The Jubilee Project in Burslem aims to help integrate asylum seekers by providing English language sessions and a variety of workshops. They seek funding so that they can pay for a qualified teacher and also pay bus fares so that asylum seekers can attend the sessions. Sheila Podmore, from the project, explained: “It is the law that asylum seekers can’t access English lessons at colleges until they have been in the city for six months. With no English, they have no friends, no community.

You can really see the difference in their faces when they are making friends. They need English more than anything.”

The project has linked up with arts organisations such as New Vic’s Borderlines, the Appetite programme and B-Arts to give asylum seekers a variety of experiences and a chance to take part in dance, drama and a feast day which included bread making.

Asylum seekers do experience hate crime, but this is an issue which is largely under reported. Jude Hawes of the Citizens Advice Bureau said it was vital that these crimes do not go unrecorded, as there is often a pattern known as Murmur to Murder, where low level abuse escalates to something else.

Jude said: “Most people who do something awful, like the van attack on the people leaving the mosque, usually started out by doing low level stuff and they weren’t challenged. Hate crimes are at high levels since Brexit. As people realise that other people haven’t been sent home, these are the kind of times when people are attacked. It is really important to report it. Only by reporting will resources go into the Police, for example, to tackle it.”

Specialist mental health nurse Sarah Wilshaw for the Asylum seeker and refugee support scheme explained how she receives referrals from the Home Office about who is coming into the city, and so immediately puts in a package of help in place to support them. Many have suffered and seen many horrors before arriving in the city, and carry this mental burden with them. She told how she had given support to an isolated woman who had been gang raped, enlisting other services to help. The woman has now been able to start a new life and has moved on from Stoke-on-Trent. Sarah said: “We are the hub of the wheel and reach out to the spokes, which are the other services.”

G4S has the contract from central Government to house asylum seekers when they first arrive in this area. Andy and Dave from G4S gave an insight into their work. The initial accommodation is hostel-style in Wakefield or Birmingham where asylum seekers will typically stay for up to three weeks before being offered dispersed accommodation e.g. houses in areas such as Stoke-on-Trent.

They will stay in this accommodation until the Home Office makes a decision on their application. Dave said that G4S carry out a postcode check so that asylum seekers aren’t placed in remote areas without services or hostile areas where they may not be accepted. During questions it was revealed that G4S housing staff now wear body cameras. There were concerns about privacy, and civil liberties from the audience. G4S said the initiative was to support both asylum seekers and housing staff from potential abuse.

In the final talk Godefroid Seminega explained the work being done to prevent young girls being subject to female genital mutilation. Some asylum seekers come from countries where this is practised, and if a mother has had FGM, then her daughter is more likely to go through FGM between the ages of eight and 15.

In Stoke-on-Trent members of the asylum community who come from countries where this is practised have been trained to help other women to speak out about their needs. These volunteers work with other services such as the police and the charity Savana. Godefroid said: “Two of the community champions were men, and their role was to go into communities and talk about the work and get support for what we are doing.” He said it was now imperative to gain further funding to allow the work to continue. “Women are still dying because they are victims of FGM,” he said.

Lunch from around the world was then served by ASHA’s asylum seekers’ community who had prepared dishes from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, to name a few. It gave all 60-plus conference attendees at ASHA’s headquarters in Shelton a chance to eat and share friendship and ideas with each other. Josiah Wedgwood himself would have approved.

Wendy Proctor writes:

I attended the conference organised for Refugee Week at ASHA, entitled ‘Dignity Not Destitution’.  This offered a good turn-out of delegates and visitors, and a well-organised, varied programme of speakers, including organisations such as Sanctus (of whom I was only dimly aware), Jubilee (not even heard of them before – to my shame!), and the more-established but invaluable CAB. We also benefited from expert contributions from Mental Health (Sarah Wilshaw), staff at ASHA – in particular Godefroid Seminega – and somewhat surprisingly, G4S – which I more often than not tended to associate with prison escort and custody rather than housing. Everyone’s attention was gained immediately by a short Guardian video, which really brought home some sense of the major barriers experienced by refugees, as did a very personal contribution and poem – extremely thought-provoking and emphasising how we take liberty, peace and basic needs completely for granted in Britain.

Eileen Moran comments:

The food provided by the asylum seekers being helped by ASHA and other organisations afterwards was really outstanding and varied, reflecting different cultures and nations.  As a ‘veggie’, I limited myself to the non-meat options, but they were delicious.

My initial feeling after the conference as I sat in my car before leaving was “So much food for thought”. I had become aware of so many people and organisations who are involved in the help and support of my asylum seeking friends whom I had met walking in Hanley when they arrived from Wakefield. They always have such beautiful smiles when we meet. Thank you all from me for all the help, support and advice you continue to give them. I hope that our friendship will continue when they are no longer asylum seekers and become refugees.

My last thought before turning the key in the ignition and driving home was to be thankful for having experienced so many new tastes. What a wonderful lunch we were given.

Useful Reference: Top 20 facts about refugees and asylum seekers https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/latest/news/4935_top_20_facts_about_refugees_and_asylum_seekers

25May2017

CONTACT

ASHA North Staffordshire

Unit 7 Hanley Business Park, Cooper Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 4DW

T: 01782-363122 or 0742-900-7234 E: info@asha-uk.org www.ashanorthstaffs.wordpress.com

Burslem Jubilee

Burslem Lighthouse, Moorland Road, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent ST6 1DW

T: Sheila Podmore 07958-250281 or

Dianne Yeadon 07532-108207

E: pody38@yahoo.com www.burslem.org.uk

Sanctus

St Marks Sanctus, Broad, Street, Shelton,

Stoke-on-Trent ST1 4LT

T: 01782-266066


Staffordshire Vegan Festival Kings Hall Saturday 30 June 2018

ASHA was very pleasantly surprised to be invited to the Vegan Festival and even more surprised to learn that ASHA would be a beneficiary. With support from ASHA trustee Cath Ralph, Manjula and a couple of other asylum volunteers ASHA set up a stall and took along some of the women’s craft work for display and sale. The happy outcome for ASHA was a donation of just under £600.

We already have a date for the festival in 2019. It is on Saturday 10 August.

Thank you Vegan Supporters.


DIANE and SUE’S ‘End of Term’ English Report June 2018

Since Easter the theme for our English sessions has been ‘The Local Area’ and as part of that we have had two very successful trips into Hanley. The first, in May, was to the Potteries Museum and the second, more recently, was to the City Central Library. On each trip we had over 15 asylum seekers, both men and women as well as babies in pushchairs! None of them had visited the museum before and only a few had been to the Library, so it was a great opportunity to show everyone the excellent facilities which are available to them on their doorstep. After each trip we visited the Museum café for refreshments. Everyone was able to order their own drink and they enjoyed socialising with each other.

One of our most enjoyable classroom based sessions took place after the Royal Wedding. Sue and I brought in photos of our weddings and encouraged everyone to describe weddings in their own country. A very lively discussion followed. Mobile phones were brought out to show photos and videos of wedding clothes and wedding parties and we were shown examples of dancing from places as far apart as Armenia and Venezuela. We also did a demonstration of English men dancing, much to everyone’s amusement!

More recently, the group has been very interested in the World Cup. In our final session this week we held an extremely noisy and competitive ‘World Cup Quiz’ which the girls won!

It has been very rewarding to how much progress the group has made in learning English and hopefully some of them will be able to join the Keele classes in September. We have also enjoyed seeing asylum seekers from a number of different countries and cultures learning to communicate with each other and, whatever their personal difficulties, having fun and laughing together. We have tremendous admiration for their optimism and resilience and look forward to working with them again in September


Visit to the Potteries Museum Wednesday 9 May 2018

Today, a group of 18 students, several children and three teachers ( Margaret, Sue and Diane) made the short journey from Asha to the Potteries Museum. The visit was a resounding success and gave all the students the opportunity to practice their English as well as to learn about the local area.

The students spent time in the Natural History Gallery and learnt about some of the animals and birds which can be seen in and around Stoke on Trent. They found this very interesting and especially enjoyed taking photos of themselves with some of the animals, such as the fox and deer!

Afterwards they each had the opportunity to order a drink for themselves in the café where they enjoyed socialising with each other before returning to Asha.

The students were surprised that the entrance to the Museum was free and a number of them said they would like to visit it again.

Diane Selby


Hearing Clay Touching Sound:Experiences of Migration Saturday 12 May 2018

Asylum seekers enjoyed a Clay Workshop on Saturday, 12 May led by Clay Artists, Andrew Brown and Christine Steven on: Everyone enjoyed making objects which held memories for them and Andrew produced couscous and a Moroccan Tagine for lunch!


VOLUNTEER TRAINING April and May

On Friday 20 April and Friday 11 May from 10.30 to 12.30 pm

ASHA has two half day training sessions for volunteers.

Anyone interested in local services for asylum seekers and refugees is welcome to attend.

Against a backcloth of Culture and Beliefs Part 1 (20 April) will look at Managing Trauma, Depression and Stress, Making Referrals, Accommodation and Homelessness.

Part Two on 11 May will look at the asylum and refugee services offered by Citizen’s Advice and the role of the British Red Cross and the Family Tracing Service.

PLEASE DON’T HESITATE TO GET INTOUCH IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ATTEND ONE OR PREFERABLY BOTH TRAINING SESSIONS.

CONTACT: angela.glendenning@gmail.com or info@asha-uk.org

Or telephone 01782-616368 or 01782-363122

Address: ASHA North Staffordshire, Unit 7 Hanley Business Park, Cooper Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 4DW


ASHA marks Refugee Week 2018

Tuesday 17 April Amnesty International: John will attend an Amnesty International meeting in London on ‘Football Welcomes Refugees.’

Friday 20 April Volunteer Training (Part One): for local and asylum volunteers.

Saturday 21 April: Keele Conference: Journey of a Refugee – Global Health Challenges organised by Keele University Friends of decin sans Frontieres and the Research Institute of Primary Care and Health Science. Angela and Barbara with some asylum seekers will attend in the morning and be joined by Godefroid and Lydia in the afternoon.

Friday 11 May Volunteer Training (Part Two): for local and asylum volunteers and interested supporters.

Saturday 12 May 10-4.00pm: Hearing Clay Touching Sound: Experience of Migration Andrew Brown and fellow artist Christine Stevens will be using clay as a medium to encourage a group of people who have experienced displacement to share their experiences of migration and relocation with one another. An exhibition of some of the outcomes is scheduled at Airspace Gallery in November 2018.Ten ASHA users are invited to take part and travel and lunch is included.

Tuesday 19 June: Showcasing ASHA’s Services Supporters and organisations offering services to asylum seekers are invited to a half day meeting and lunch to mark Refugee Week (18-24 June).

Saturday 23 June: Football Tournament: To mark Refugee Week with a barbecue and music for everyone in the evening.


Global Health Challenges Keele University: JOURNEY OF A REFUGEE 21 April 2018

 

10:00-10:10                     WELCOME ADDRESS

Redefining Global Health at Keele

-Sunna Ali and Mehmet Dogan, Conference Coordinators

10:10-11:00                      KEYNOTE SPEECH

‘My Journey as a Refugee: From Refugee to UK Doctor’

Dr Tirej Brimo, UHNM NHS Hospitals Trust

11:00-11:20                    MORNING TEA BREAK

11:20-12:00                    BREAKOUT SESSIONS

Choose one of the following: 

Infectious Diseases within Refugee Populations – Dr Mussarrat Afza, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, Public Health England

Providing First Aid in a Refugee Camp – Keele LINKS St Johns Ambulance

Mental Health of Refugees – Daniel Flecknoe, Medecins sans Frontiérès (MSF)

12:00-13:00       LUNCH, EXHIBITION & MARKETING HUB

Take a tour through the Photo and Digital Storytelling Exhibition and network within the Marketing Hub

13:00-14:00                     PANEL DISCUSSION

To what extent should Europe respond to the Migrant Crisis’

-Jeremy Lefroy MP, Daniel Flecknoe and Dr Tirej Brimo

14:00-14:30 AFTERNOON TEA BREAK, EXHIBITION & MARKETING HUB

Tea, Coffee and Refreshments

Take a tour through the Photo and Digital Storytelling Exhibition and network within the Marketing Hub

14:30-15:10                      BREAKOUT SESSIONS

Choose one of the following:

Migration and Communicable Diseases– Dr Kanza Ahmed, Public Health Specialty Registrar, Staffordshire and Shropshire

Social Inclusion for Asylum Seekers and Refugees– ASHA, North Staffordshire

My experiences with Syrian NGOs through the eye of a camera lens

Claire Glasscoe, PhD

15:10-15:45    DELEGATE GROUP DISCUSSIONS & MSF HR TALK 

Inspiring group discussions and learn more about careers with MSF 

15:45-16:30                      KEYNOTE SPEECH

My Journey of a Refugee: How the war in Syria destroyed my childhood idyll in Eastern Ghoutta’-as written in The Sunday Times

Steve Ali, Interpreter for BBC and NBC Universal and Refugee Action

16:30-17:00                          POEM RECITAL 

Through my Eyes’ – By Sunna Ali, Conference Coordinator

CLOSING ADDRESS


Women’s International Day 10 March 2018

Responding to an invitation from Stoke and North Staffs Women’s Network women from ASHA’s sewing group took part in a Craft Fair at Burslem School of Art.

Those who took part very much enjoyed the occasion and the team were pleased to receive this endorsement of their participation from Mo Sullivan who wrote:

I am writing to ask you to pass on thanks to ASHA’s craft group of women and children, and also to Godefroid, Lydia, Eva, Ryn and Rufieda for their wonderful contribution to the craft day held in honour of International Women’s Day at Burslem School of Art last Saturday. Angela supported in her usual invaluable way as did Cath Ralph. 

The ASHA women and their lovely craft work and friendly manner played a big part in the success of the day, and the children were very well behaved.  Godefroid and Lydia were very efficient and good humoured in planning everything in detail beforehand along with the helpers, and Lydia was a great ambassador for ASHA on the day. 

Linda Holt, chair of the Stoke and North Staffs Women’s Network who organised the day and funded ASHA’s travel and helpers’ costs would also like to pass on her and the organising group’s appreciation.’  


Diane’s English Class January – March 2018

In January I started with a small group of 3 students. The numbers have fluctuated from week to week but recently I have been teaching 8-10 students and I have been especially pleased to welcome a number of women and several babies! Of the 10 students who came on the last week (21st March) there were 5 men, 5 women and 3 babies.

The students vary in their command of English but the more able ones are able to support the others and it is wonderful to see them all gain in confidence over time. I am sure that some of them will be able to progress to the classes run by the Keele students by next September.

Each week I give the students opportunities to speak and listen (often to an audio tape) as well as engage in reading and writing activities. They especially enjoy role play; for example, practicing buying a rail ticket or asking for fruit and vegetables at a market stall. They are especially happy to ‘buy’ fresh ingredients to take home. As the last week was just before Easter they all had some mini Easter Eggs as a treat! We always try to have a laugh and end with a game – they never seem to tire of playing Bingo!

On one occasion I teamed up with Margaret and we taught our two groups together which was very successful.

In recent weeks Sue, another volunteer, has joined me. This has been very beneficial as many of the students need individual support, especially with reading and writing.

It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these enthusiastic, charming and optimistic young people and I look forward to joining them again after the Easter break.

Diane Selby


Matt Pointon of Unionlearn report s on a Community Learning Day 23 February 2018

In late February Unionlearn delivered a second Festival of Learning with ASHA in conjunction with Unite. This event focused on apprenticeships, what they offer and ways that unions can support schemes.

The day built on an earlier event last year and was delivered by unionlearn project officers, Matt Pointon, Mark Rowe and Jane Warwick along with Mary Sayer from Unite and Robin Graham from Laughter Association UK.

The popular event was attended by 28 ASHA service users, all from various BME groups across the city. It was also supported by ASHA’s volunteers and paid staff. Clare White from the WEA also attended whilst Stoke-on-Trent College had a stand.

Prior to the event unionlearn met with ASHA trustee John Walsh to discuss which areas of learning would be most applicable.

Unionlearn’s Matt Pointon said: “John was eager to have an event focussing on apprenticeships as many refugees look to begin these once they get their residency status.”

“Also, ASHA was concerned about unscrupulous local businesses telling their clients that they were on an official apprenticeship whereas they were just making them work for less. Thus, the theme of the day was apprenticeships and Mark Rowe took the lead.”

The day was split into a number of distinct learning events:
What is an apprenticeship (and what isn’t)?
One to one ESOL sessions
Presentation & Q&A: Your Rights as an Apprentice
Laughter Yoga
Trade unions and your rights at work

Throughout the day unionlearn Project Officer Jane Warwick delivered one-to-one Value My Skills sessions with ASHA clients, which were well received and proved very popular in identifying areas that learners could build on.

Matt added: “In addition to these learning sessions, some of the ASHA service users used the budget which usually would have been used to purchase a buffet to prepare different foods for lunch as an additional learning and cultural experience. One additional reason for this was that many members had specific dietary requirements and so felt safer eating food that they knew had been prepared in accordance with those requirements.”
END
Fourteen men and 14 women attended from the following countries:
Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Ingushetia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Syria, Sri Lanka, Albania and Russia.
Participant’s comments included the following:
.’I never realised that laughter could make me feel so different.’ Victore
‘To be shown how my skills and interests could help me look for suitable employment was very helpful’. Sasangi
‘Thinking about what I will do when I get my visa in the future, I will certainly look for some form of apprenticeship.’ Haroun
‘I was very impressed by the knowledge the speakers have about working in England’.  Morad
‘Thank you for helping me understand this new country.  It is very different from where I come from especially about looking for work’.  Hamada
‘I liked being able to ask questions’ Osman


Footballers play in Stoke City FA strip in Leicester 24 February 2018
As part of Stoke City Community Trust inclusion Programme (Stoke City FC) ASHA’s best players set off to at 8.0am on Saturday 24 February to play two matches against Leicester FC.
ASHA lost the first game 2/1and won the second 6/1.


New Year Get-Together 25 January 2018

About 40 local and asylum volunteers, supporters and guests gathered at the Mirchi in Snowhill for an early evening supper to celebrate the New Year. Trustee Angela Glendenning summarised the year as follows:

ASHA moved into Unit 7 just under two years ago. These two years have been something of a roller-coaster but the second half of 2017 was one of consolidation and we embark on 2018 with great expectations.

Highlights of 2017 include:

Our May conference brought together ASHA, the Jubilee Project and Sanctus to mark Refugee Week. Over 60 people attended and feedback confirmed that it was as successful as we thought it was and this was in no small measure due to our chair, Phil Mayland.

The summer trip to Llandudno could not have happened without Maureen Wisken’s energy. She rallied Trinity Church in Leek and various Methodist churches to raise money to hire two coaches and round up volunteers to share a day by the seaside with ASHA users.

Maureen’s dynamism was not exhausted. She also involved asylum seekers in cooking for Trinity Church’s Christmas Market which raised £2379.25 for ASHA.

ASHA would not be what it is without the weekly presence of the British Red Cross offering support, advice and advocacy to asylum seekers and we are glad that Red Cross worker Charlotte Swan is with us this evening.

ASHA is indebted to Barbara James who introduced Keele University English students and medical students to ASHA and we are glad Russell Clark, Academic English Programme Director, has been able to join us.

We also have a core group of one-to-one English tutors who offer personal attention to those with little or no English. Margaret Yates is one of them and she is with us.

ASHA has enjoyed several Community Learning days tutored by Matt Pointon and funded by the trade union, Unite.

We owe David Wright and Peter Till, managers respectively of Newcastle and Lichfield Food Banks for their regular donations of surplus food. Stoke Food Bank does not often have much surplus to disperse but does so when it can. Manager Anna has recently moved to another job and Corinne Boden is here in her place.

Thank you Phil Mayland and Carol Lovatt for your commitment in keeping the needs of asylum seekers to the forefront amongst various Roman Catholic congregations. Newcastle Unitarian Church regularly deposits food and clothing in my porch and various individuals and faith groups do the same.

We are also very grateful to the Salvation Army who come through every Christmas with presents for the children. Theresa Raffan has taken on the hefty task of collecting the toys for distribution and Theresa attended the Christmas Party and is with us tonight.

This year’s Children’s Christmas Party was attended by 138 children and 68 parents. Each year Sporting Communities organises the party and for over 10 years members of Keele World Affairs have contributed food and money. ASHA is fortunate that Ben Rigby, Director of Sporting Communities is a member of our Board of Trustees.

We are glad to welcome guests, Sarah Wilshaw and Elaine Goldstraw from the NHS Asylum Seeker & Refugee Mental Health Team and Jude Hawes, Citizens Advice with Zak, Assistant Manager in the Asylum Advice Team and Shug from the Into School project. We’re sorry Huda and Chris can’t be with us.

Show me a charity which can boast such a dedicated, hard-working staff as Godefroid and Lydia. They both work beyond the call of duty and they keep us grounded in our aim to be of service to men, women and families seeking refuge from persecution. We are also delighted to have Jane Bailey as our new finance and admin officer.

Thank you to Kevin Sauntry and our Board of Trustees but above all, thank you to our local volunteers John, Maureen, Eva, Sarah, Dawn, Diane and Sylvia and our asylum volunteers Roza, Osman, Dabashish, Manjula, Monis, Jeanine, Sasangi, Kirill, Mansoora, Sirwan, Mamadu and Guillaume.

Without them we would not be able to keep the show on the road.

This occasion is especially for them, to show our appreciation of the way they rise above the stress and pressure of their situation to join us in offering services and care to those who have known such hardship, separation and loss. You give us hope and a renewed faith in humanity. Thank you.


Keele Medical School January 2018

ASHA was very pleased to welcome a group of final year medical students tasked to visit the centre weekly to familiarise themselves with the ‘world’ of asylum seekers as part of learning about local community services. New Year Get-Together 25 January 2018

About 40 local and asylum volunteers, supporters and guests gathered at the Mirchi in Snowhill for an early evening supper to celebrate the New Year. Trustee Angela Glendenning summarised the year as follows:

ASHA moved into Unit 7 just under two years ago. These two years have been something of a roller-coaster but the second half of 2017 was one of consolidation and we embark on 2018 with great expectations.

Highlights of 2017 include:

Our May conference brought together ASHA, the Jubilee Project and Sanctus to mark Refugee Week. Over 60 people attended and feedback confirmed that it was as successful as we thought it was and this was in no small measure due to our chair, Phil Mayland.

The summer trip to Llandudno could not have happened without Maureen Wisken’s energy. She rallied Trinity Church in Leek and various Methodist churches to raise money to hire two coaches and round up volunteers to share a day by the seaside with ASHA users.

Maureen’s dynamism was not exhausted. She also involved asylum seekers in cooking for Trinity Church’s Christmas Market which raised £2379.25 for ASHA.

ASHA would not be what it is without the weekly presence of the British Red Cross offering support, advice and advocacy to asylum seekers and we are glad that Red Cross worker Charlotte Swan is with us this evening.

ASHA is indebted to Barbara James who introduced Keele University English students and medical students to ASHA and we are glad Russell Clark, Academic English Programme Director, has been able to join us.

We also have a core group of one-to-one English tutors who offer personal attention to those with little or no English. Margaret Yates is one of them and she is with us.

ASHA has enjoyed several Community Learning days tutored by Matt Pointon and funded by the trade union, Unite.

We owe David Wright and Peter Till, managers respectively of Newcastle and Lichfield Food Banks for their regular donations of surplus food. Stoke Food Bank does not often have much surplus to disperse but does so when it can. Manager Anna has recently moved to another job and Corinne Boden is here in her place.

Thank you Phil Mayland and Carol Lovatt for your commitment in keeping the needs of asylum seekers to the forefront amongst various Roman Catholic congregations. Newcastle Unitarian Church regularly deposits food and clothing in my porch and various individuals and faith groups do the same.

We are also very grateful to the Salvation Army who come through every Christmas with presents for the children. Theresa Raffan has taken on the hefty task of collecting the toys for distribution and Theresa attended the Christmas Party and is with us tonight.

This year’s Children’s Christmas Party was attended by 138 children and 68 parents. Each year Sporting Communities organises the party and for over 10 years members of Keele World Affairs have contributed food and money. ASHA is fortunate that Ben Rigby, Director of Sporting Communities is a member of our Board of Trustees.

We are glad to welcome guests, Sarah Wilshaw and Elaine Goldstraw from the NHS Asylum Seeker & Refugee Mental Health Team and Jude Hawes, Citizens Advice with Zak, Assistant Manager in the Asylum Advice Team and Shug from the Into School project. We’re sorry Huda and Chris can’t be with us.

Show me a charity which can boast such a dedicated, hard-working staff as Godefroid and Lydia. They both work beyond the call of duty and they keep us grounded in our aim to be of service to men, women and families seeking refuge from persecution. We are also delighted to have Jane Bailey as our new finance and admin officer.

Thank you to Kevin Sauntry and our Board of Trustees but above all, thank you to our local volunteers John, Maureen, Eva, Sarah, Dawn, Diane and Sylvia and our asylum volunteers Roza, Osman, Dabashish, Manjula, Monis, Jeanine, Sasangi, Kirill, Mansoora, Sirwan, Mamadu and Guillaume.

Without them we would not be able to keep the show on the road.

This occasion is especially for them, to show our appreciation of the way they rise above the stress and pressure of their situation to join us in offering services and care to those who have known such hardship, separation and loss. You give us hope and a renewed faith in humanity. Thank you.

We are always curious to know how others see us and to learn from the experience of visitors. This is how one medical student describes arriving at ASHA.

Hidden away on a business park in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent is ASHA. It’s difficult to describe in words the atmosphere created by staff, volunteers and service users in this small centre. When you approach the building, it looks unremarkable, in keeping with the surrounding units on the business park. As you walk in the front door and immediately up a cold staircase into the main room, a sea of warm faces greets you. The loud noise of chatter, children playing, laughter, the kettle boiling, a strong smell of fresh toast …. It feels like home. ASHA is a place where asylum seekers of all origins, men, women and children are welcome.’

ASHA’s clients felt very much at ease with the students as they discussed the issues they have approaching the medical services in a new country. The outcome of the student’s visits is a beautiful printed leaflet, A Guide to Using the NHS, which in simple language and symbols will help an asylum seeker know where to get help and how to tell a doctor or pharmacist about their symptoms..

ASHA is pleased welcome a second group of medical students and looks forward to their insights into how the centre works and their insight into what matters most for our asylum seekers.



Top